Fall 2019

Imposture: Con-men, Swindlers, and Other Pretenders

Listed in: European Studies, as EUST-255  |  Russian, as RUSS-255


Michael M. Kunichika (Section 01)


This course investigates various figures of imposture. Beginning with Nikolai Gogol’s classic figure of Chichikov from Dead Souls and his genre-bending reversal of the theme in The Inspector General, the course will examine how authors have used confidence games and imposture to reveal particular ploys and gambits in literature. The course will also consider the ways that con-men, swindlers, and pretenders reflect and manipulate the cultural, political, and social dilemmas of their respective periods. While we will focus particularly on the case of Russia—and the distinct place the arts of confidence have had there – we will also consider forms of imposture beyond just a hustle for money and beyond the case of Russia. We will examine imposture in terms of race (as in Nella Larsen's Passing), in the realm of politics (as in Alexander Pushkin's “Boris Godunov”), in relation to the Holocaust (as in Stefan Maechler’s definitive report on the memoirist Benjamin Wilkomirskij), and in such expansive novelistic treatments of this theme by Herman Melville and Thomas Mann. All readings in English. No previous knowledge of Russian culture or history expected.

Fall semester. Professor Kunichika.


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Issues of Social Justice, Attention to Writing, Languages Other Than English, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019